MALTA: CROSSROADS OF ANCIENT MEDITERRANEAN HISTORY

TRAVEL by Eric Mackenzie Lamb

The Republic of Malta has always been one of the places I have wanted to visit. But due to ever-changing Covid-19 travel restrictions, the small island nation was difficult to get to. However, I finally did it last summer. And what I saw was just mesmerizing. And that doesn’t even mention his story.

First, a little background. Malta is an island country in the European Union consisting of an archipelago in the Mediterranean Sea. It is 50 miles south of Italy, 176 miles east of Tunisia and 207 miles north of Libya. With a population of around 515,000 in an area of ​​just 122 square miles, it is the tenth smallest country in the world. And its capital, Valletta, is the smallest in the EU

First, a little background.

Malta is an island country in the European Union consisting of an archipelago in the Mediterranean Sea. It is 50 miles south of Italy, 176 miles east of Tunisia and 207 miles north of Libya. With a population of around 515,000 in an area of ​​just 122 square miles, it is the tenth smallest country in the world. And its capital, Valletta, is the smallest in the EU

The rugged coast of Malta. Author’s picture.

The country’s national language is Maltese, derived from Sicilian Arabic over the centuries, while English is its second official language. Below is an example of how remarkably different they are from each other.

Inhabited since about 5900 BC. Malta’s location in the center of the Mediterranean historically gave the island great strategic importance as a naval base, with a succession of powers having contested and ruled the islands, including the Phoenicians, the Carthaginians, Romans, Greeks, Arabs, Normans, Aragonese, Knights of St. John, and the French and British. Each has left an indelible mark on the country’s culture. In AD 58, the Apostle Paul stayed in Malta for three months after his ship ran aground on the island’s shore during a storm. Malta has had Christianity for centuries, although it was predominantly Muslim under Arab rule. Muslim rule ended with the invasion of the island by Roger I and the Knights of Malta in 1091. Today, Catholicism is the country’s official religion but its constitution guarantees freedom of worship for all.
Malta became a British colony in 1813, serving as a staging post for ships as well as headquarters for Britain’s Mediterranean naval fleet. During World War II, although besieged by the Axis powers, Malta became a strategic base for British military operations in North Africa. In 1964, the British parliament passed the Malta Independence Act. The country became a republic in 1974 and a member state of the Commonwealth of Nations, with its own seat at the United Nations. It officially joined the European Union in 2004. When the Suez Canal opened in 1869, Malta’s strategic position, midway between the Strait of Gibraltar and Egypt, proved to be its main trump card and was considered a milestone on the route to India, a vital trade route for the British. Malta has three UNESCO World Heritage Sites, as well as seven temples which are among the oldest free-standing structures in the world.

Finally, something you may not know: in 1989, Malta was the site of a historic meeting between US President George HW Bush and his Russian counterpart Mikhael Gorbachev, an event that marked the end of the Cold War. . Oh, and let’s not forget: Malta even has its own carnival the week before Ash Wednesday. A touch of Caribbean culture?

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